tv Meet the Press MSNBC April 28, 2013 11:00pm-12:01am PDT
this sunday, is syria a game changer for president obama? the security threats mount on his watch. a new chapter in syria's brutal civil war. the administration says the assad regime appears to have used chemical weapons. >> used potential weapons of mass destruction on civilian populations crosses another line with respect to international norms of international law, and that is going to be a game changer. >> if confirmed, what is the president prepared to do? are there any good options? how should the lessons of iraq weigh on the obama team's thinking? with us this morning ranking member of the senate armed services committee, arizona republican john mccain. then the terror debate after
boston. should more have been done to track the suspects when red flags were raised? a debate between republican congressman peter king of the intelligence and homeland security committee, and democratic congressman of minnesota, keith ellison. also this morning, perspective on the threats testing the president, from former british prime minister tony blair. and our roundtable this morning includes democratic senator amy klobuchar as the group reflects on the bush library dedication this week and reacts to the president's big saturday night with washington journalists. and good sunday morning. washington is bleary-eyed after what's come to be known as nerd prom in our nation's capital where politicians, celebrities, journalists, all mingle for a night of bipartisan fun. the president finding way to poke fun at washington's
disarray. >> i know republicans are still sorting out what happened in 2012, but one thing they all agree on is they need too a better job reaching out to minorities. call me self-centered but i can think of one minority they could start with. [ laughter ] hello. >> we're going to have some highlights and reaction from last night but we want to start with the very serious topic of syria this morning. the looming threat after this week's revelation about the possible use of chemical weapons, and for that we turn to senator john mccain of arizona who is in arizona this morning. senator, welcome. >> thank you, david. >> as you know the white house said this week after this intelligence estimate came out about the use of chemical weapons that the case that syria actually did that is not airtight. what do you say? >> well, it may not be airtight. the israelis and the british are far more affirmative in their assessment of it. but, david, we should not be -- our actions should not be
dictated by whether bashar al assad used these chemical weapons or not. first of all, sooner or later he most likely would in order to maintain his hold on power. but what has happened here is the president drew a red line about chemical weapons thereby giving a green light to bashar al assad to do anything short of that including scud missiles and helicopter gun ships and air strikes and mass executions and atrocities that are on a scale that we have not seen in a long, long time. >> so the president says that this is a red line if confirmed, and he said back in august it would change my calculus. it would change my equation. what would you have him do at this point? >> well, for about two years as this situation has deteriorated in a very alarming fashion, affected the surrounding countries, destabilized lebanon,
destabilized jordan, and has had implications and repercussions throughout the region, we have said that they need a no-fly zone which could be obtained without using u.s. manned aircraft. we could use patriot missiles, patriot batteries and cruise missiles to take out their air and to supply the resistance with weapons. and, as you know, a flood of weapons is coming in from russia and iran. iranians are on the ground in syria, and it's an unfair fight. and unless we get to change this balance of power by not using incrementalism, then there's every risk of a stalemate that could go on for months and months while the jihadists flood in, while the sorting out the situation after he leaves becomes more and more complicated, and there's also the possibility that he could
enact a plan "b," which is to withdraw to the coastal areas with an enclave that stretches from the golan heights all throughout and along the coast, and could be another long period of conflict. >> but, senator, as the bush library was dedicated this week, again the specter of iraq and the legacy of iraq was debated in this country, are we not more skeptical about talk of more limited military action, no-fly zones, incrementalism, as you say, as well as the strength of the opposition? aren't there lessons from iraq that need to be taken into mind here? >> well, one of the lessons obviously, and we hear this a lot from the administration, is that we had false information about weapons of mass destruction with iraq. in this case, there is significant evidence that the -- physical evident of the use of chemical weapons, and by the
way, the administration has said, well, they want the u.n. to investigate. the only problem with that is bashar won't let the u.n. in, so it's a bit ludicrous. so the fact is that whether he has used those chemical weapons or not, he's done virtually everything else -- atrocity you could commit, and that should not be the gauge. but would anyone be surprised if bashar al assad did use chemical weapons in his desperation to hang on to power? >> so what is the limit of what the united states, in your judgment, should do to put a limit on him? >> well, as i said, a safe zone of arming the rebels, making sure that we help with the refugees and an international -- be prepared with an international force to go in and secure these stocks of chemical and perhaps biological weapons. there are a number of caches of these chemical weapons.
they cannot fall into the hands of the jihadists, otherwise we will end up seeing those weapons used in other places in the middle east. it is a very dangerous situation. >> and yoost troops should be part of that force? >> i don't know. i think that, first of all, american people are weary, as you pointed out. they don't want boots on the ground. i don't want boots on the ground. i do want to give them the assistance which would give them a dramatic shift in the balance of power in syria, but we have to, as an international group, plan and be ready operationally -- not just plan but be ready operationally to go in and secure those areas. now, if you could do it whatever the composition of that force is something i think we have to look at very carefully. but the worst thing the american people -- the united states could do right now is put boots on the ground in syria. that would turn the people against us. and just let me say the syrian people are angry and bitter at the united states.
i was in a refugee camp in jordan, and there are thousands of people and kids, and this woman who was a schoolteacher said, senator mccain, do you see these children here? they're going to take revenge on those people who refused to help them. they're angry and bitter. and that legacy could last for a long time, too, unless we assist them. >> let me turn you quickly to a couple of domestic items. this funding that came up at the end of the week over the faa and flight delays and new legislation to basically provide the administration with more flexibility to get the planes running on time again, what would you be prepared to do to replace the sequester of the most harmful effects of the sequester? is that a model for what washington ought to be doing about it? >> well, i say with all due respect to my friends, it's a little bit hypocritical on the same day when all of the focus was on the delays that we have in getting through airports, the chief of staff of the united states army was saying that we are going -- if we don't reverse this, we're going to have a hollow army. we'll be unable to defend the
nation, and it would take us 10 or 15 years to recover. i think we have our priorities a little bit skewed here. look, i'm for giving the faa flexibility, but i also want to give the military flexibility, and i don't want the sequestration cuts to be as steep as they are on national defense. we have a lot of savings we can make in national security, but right now we, in the words of the secretary of defense and our uniformed service chiefs, we're putting the security of this nation at risk. >> i want to end on politics. you had your old friend and former colleague in the senate, the vice president joe biden, offering some political analysis about the 2008 race. here's part of what he said. >> and the truth of the matter is, barack knows i know had the economy not collapsed around your ears, john, in the middle of, literally, just as you were -- as things were moving, you at least would have, i think you probably would have won, but it would have been incredibly,
incredibly, incredibly closer. you inherited a really difficult time. >> if not for the economy, you would have been president, is that how you see it? >> no. look, joe biden and i are very close friends, and i think it would have been a much closer race, but, i'll tell you, he has -- president obama ran a great race, and that campaign matters. i appreciate the fact that my dear friend would say something like that, but i know that -- i doubt if the outcome would have been a lot different, but i can always hope it might have been. >> all right. senator, we'll leave it there. more to come on the syria debate. we appreciate you coming on this morning. >> thank you. >> all right. turning now to democratic congressman keith ellison of minnesota, republican congressman peter king of new york, gentlemen, welcome to you. >> thank you. >> i want to talk about the aftermath of the boston bombings and the surveillance work, the role of the fbi. but, first, let me get your comments, congressman, on this prospect of a huge national security test now for president obama.
how do you see it? >> well, you know, first of all, this action is the most despicable thing. you know, americans have to rally together to stamp out terrorist acts like this. i'm proud of the law enforcement, proud of the first responders. but what i think we need to do is to really, really back law enforcement to make sure that we fully investigate this case and we don't need to start identifying communities to surveil or to go after. we need to come together as a nation. >> let me get your comment before we get to that on syria, what i was just discussing with senator mccain, this is a huge test as well as the boston bombings aftermath and syria is a huge test for president obama. what concerns you about what we've seen out of potential use of chemical weapons? >> well, i'm absolutely concerned about that, but i believe the united states could play a greater role in dealing with the humanitarian crisis. there's a very, very difficult humanitarian crisis as senator mccain pointed out. i mean, we have spillage and refugees in jordan, in lebanon,
in displaced people in syria, the suffering is intense. and i don't think the world's greatest superpower, the united states, can stand by and not do anything. now we have done some things and the president deserves a lot of credit for that, but i think there's perhaps a little bit more we could do on the humanitarian front. >> we're talking about a red line being crossed, congressman, and whether the united states has military options to back up what the president said, you don't cross it or there will be severe consequences. >> the situation here is complex. my concern is al qaeda has more influence than it should among the rebels and if we assist the rebels, al qaeda could take advantage of that. having said that the president did say that there's a red line and once the united states ray lays down a red line, some action has to be taken. now what that's going to be, i was at the briefing with senator kerry the other day. he really didn't lay that out. the administration is right now trying to figure out what to do. i'm not trying to minimize it but once he laid out the red line, something has to be done. >> something militarily? >> well, either that or concerted action with allies. >> did somebody else besides the u.s. to take the lead here? is that where we are politically?
>> i think it makes it better. i'm still concerned who is going to take over the rebels. we have allowed this to go on too long. where we didn't have enough influence on the ground in dealing with the forces. >> well, red line does not mean boots on the ground, but there's a lot of things we can do other than that. we have been providing nonlethal military aid. but i think more coordination and dealing with this humanitarian crisis i think is essential. >> let me turn to the aftermath of the boston bombings where the focus has been this week on the now dead older brother, tamerlan tsarnaev, who had trips back to the chechnya region of the northern caucuses. was interviewed by the fbi people will remember but then seemed to fall off the radar. congressman, where are you critical of intelligence and the fbi's role in this? >> the fbi has done an outstanding job in solving this in the four-day period. having said that i don't think they did a full investigation beforehand. the fact is there were other items in his folder, his file that they found. i think they it continued to give the benefit of the doubt in each instance and, therefore, just closed out that investigation. for instance, they never went to
his mosque. never spoke to the imam, to a number of his relatives and, also, there were certain matters in his file that they chose to look the other way on or said there was nothing there. >> what did they look the other way on? >> his name came up in several instances and they said there was nothing there. if you have three independent references to someone possibly having terrorist connections, when do you stop saying it's just a coincidence? >> there are reports now about his mother, talking to him on the telephone that she was on a monitor list as well and that they may have been discussing potential jihad. was the ball dropped here? >> i mean, i don't want to start assigning blame. every single day fbi and law enforcement protects this country. these terrorists just have to get through once. and so the fact is on an everyday basis, i feel really good about our nation's law enforcement. the fact is there will come a time when we can look back and see what lessons should be learned, what should we have done differently, and that's a good, healthy -- >> let's talk about the surveillance within the muslim community. that's partly what you were talking about this week, congressman king.
you said this in the national review and this is how they reported it, police have to be in the community. they have to build up as many sources as they can. and they have to realize that the threat is coming from the muslim community and increase surveillance there. we can't be bound by political correctness. >> absolutely. the nypd is doing in new york with 1,000 police officers focusing on this issue, knowing where the threat is coming from. now most muslims are outstanding people but the threat is coming from the muslim community. yesterday tom friedman who is certainly no conservative, said we must ask the question only muslims can answer. what is going on in your community that a review of your youth believes every military action in the middle east justifies a violent response? it's coming from the community. and in previous times when had certain elements in the community are the ones responsible to crime, the police focused on it. for instance in boston the fbi never spoke to the boston police about the older brother. and afterwards there was no intelligence files in boston on these types of people, people inclined to terrorism.
the fbi never even got to examining him. >> congressman, you're a muslim. this concerns you on civil libertarian grounds and other areas. >> well, i'm an american, and i'm concerned about national safety, public safety, just like everyone is. but i think it's ineffective law enforcement to go after a particular community. i think what we need to do is look at behavior and follow those leads where they would lead. so, like if tamerlan tsarnaev is evidencing dangerous behavior, by all means, go after him. but once you start saying we're going to dragnet or surveil a community, what you do is you ignore dangerous threats that are not in that community and you go after people who don't have anything to do with it. and so let me just finish up with this one point. and so this ricin attack, for example, that's an act of terrorism. that doesn't come out of the muslim community. we don't have enough law enforcement resources to just go after one community and, remember, we went after a community in world war ii. the japanese interment is a national stain on our country,
and we are still apologizing for it. >> we're talking about following the constitution. what the nypd is doing, they have 1,000 cops working on counterterrorism, 16 plots against new york have been stopped. if any of those had gone through hundreds or thousands of people dead. >> where does political correctness get in way with surveilling terrorists? >> why didn't they talk to the mosque, to the imam? >> he was a legal, permanent resident. does that have something to do with what the fbi is capable of doing? >> an american citizen, they still have the right to ask questions about you. just because you're a citizen doesn't mean they can't ask questions. >> questions based on what, the exercise of free speech or actual evidence of them plotting? >> i think somehow anti-muslim or anti-islam if they accept the reality that the element is coming from within the muslim community as in previous times you had elements come from certain communities. eric holder says this keeps him awake at night, radical islam
among young people in the muslim community. dennis mcdonough said the same thing in 2011 when he went to a mosque in virginia about the threats that have come to the muslim community. it's there. >> jeff goldberg, who is "the atlantic" journalist said this on the program last week something the muslim community and other countries have to deal with. this is a portion of what he said. >> when you talk about what's going on in the muslim world, and we have to remember, of course, that the primary victims of jihadism are other muslims, muslims who don't agree with the more jihadist elements and so we have to ask ourselves, and the muslim world has to ask themselves, you know, what are we doing to provide counter programming even on the internet? and this is not something that the u.s. can fix or the west can fix. it has to come from within islam. >> let me assure you, muslim leaders all across this country have wildly condemned this most recent act of terrorism and have condemned terrorism broadly and
are in a number of ways through interfaith dialogue talking about, emphasizing peace and connectedness with people, good works within the community. i mean, the reality is this is going on and has been and needs to continue to go on. but that's kind of the thing that i'm saying is that, you know, the community is facing this threat, but this is an american problem. there have been threats throughout this community, this country, from various sources. but, you know, muslims and people across this nation need to think about public safety and threats and radicalism, not just one community. >> just a few seconds left, congressman king. remaining questions now, what are you really focused on that you'd like the intelligence community and the fbi to answer? >> i think it's important to know are there other people involved in the threat, are there others still out there? family members or people in the community? that's very important to find out. also, what did cause them to radicalize? was it done here? was it done overseas? was it done over the internet?
what caused that to happen? how can we stop it in the future. why isn't the fbi not cooperating with local law enforcement? why they did not give vital evidence to the nypd about another possible attack. >> this is a failure you think need to be learned from? >> absolute failure. >> all right, congressmen, thank you both very much. >> thank you very much, david. >> and coming up here politics and presidential legacies just as all five living presidents gathered in dallas this week for the dedication of the bush presidential library, the current president faces a critical juncture as he looks at his own legacy as we approach the 100-day mark of his second term. how is the team and obama agenda faring on immigration, national security and the economy? the political roundtable is here as well as tony blair coming up after this break. [ female announcer ] are you sensitive to dairy? then you'll love lactose-free lactaid® it's 100% real milk that's easy to digest so you can fully enjoy the dairy you love. lactaid®.
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it was a big night in washington last night as journalists, celebrities, and politicians alike gathered for the annual white house correspondents' asosociation dinner, the night full of laughs. here are a couple of our favorites. >> one senator who has reached across the aisle recently is marco rubio. but i don't know about 2016. i mean, the guy has not even finished a single term in the senate and he thinks he's ready to be president. [ applause ] kids these days. >> also, i'd like to acknowledge earlier this evening there was some confusion with the seating chart. for a moment some -- someone accidentally sat governor chris christie with the republicans. that was awkward and i apologize. >> i, on the other hand, have run my last campaign. on thursday, as ed mentioned,s i
went to the opening of the bush presidential library in dallas. it was a wonderful event. and that inspired me to get started on my own legacy, which will actually begin by building another edifice right next to the bush library. can we show that, please? >> and coming up, more from the dinner last night as well as my conversation with form 0er ♪ [ male announcer ] from the way the bristles move to the way they clean, once you try an oral-b deep sweep power brush, you'll never go back to a regular manual brush. its three cleaning zones with dynamic power bristles reach between teeth with more brush movements to remove up to 100% more plaque than a regular manual brush. and even 76% more plaque than sonicare flexcare in hard to reach areas. oral-b deep sweep 5000 power brush. life opens up when you do.
congress. it turns out absolutely nothing. some folks still don't think i spend enough time with congress. why don't you get a drink with mitch mcconnell, they ask? really? why don't you get a drink with mitch mcconnell? >> mitch mcconnell jokes, only f funny in washington. we are back with our roundtable, joining me former undersecretary of state, republican diplomacy and public affairs karen hughes. >> i'd love to have a drink with mitch mcconnell. >> democratic congressman from texas, joaquin castro, our political director and white house correspondent, chuck todd, republican strategist mike murphy and democratic senator from minnesota, huge minnesota day on the program, could klobue could. welcome to all of you. how did the president do last night? >> i think he was incredible. you know he likes to do these things. it's fun. i really look at this dinner as a chance for him to make fun for himself in a town there's dagers on every corner for people to come together and have some fun.
he was tremendous. my famous line was actually when he talked about now he wanted to have his presidential library and he wanted to have it in the first place. >> these are actual opportunities for presidents and presidents, i think back to president bush, usually do very well at these things, plus they can take on stuff they're actually legitimately mad about with humor. >> a sense of humor. humor and humility are in short supply in washington. i thought the president's remarks were funny last night. >> chuck, what were his favorite targets? we played it at the top, the bit about if you want minority outreach, why don't you start with this minority. >> contractually are we okay to praise conan? he was really funny, too. >> i think so. >> what i wonder is how many people realized at the end when he did his -- there's always this part at the end where they get serious for the minute, the part where presidents say i think the press has a good job to do and i understand. he didn't say that.
he wasn't very complimentary of the press. we all can do better. it did seem -- i thought his pot shots joke wise and then the serious stuff about the internet, the rise of the internet media and social media, he hates it. okay? he hates this part of the media. he really thinks the buzzification, not just about buzz feeds and politico, he thinks that coverage of political media has hurt political discourse. he hates it. i think he was trying to make that clear last night. >> senator, we're also at a point, though, some of the other big matters are usually right under the surface like syria. you heard senator mccain talking about his own call for action to do more after he thinks the administration has been late here getting into syria after a couple of years. how did you react to that? what do you think the president's next moves have to be? >> i'm much more focused on the future as senator gillibrand and i just came back from jordan and turkey and met with the refugees. we met with the rebels. and i'm convinced that, first of all, the president knows that we
can't do this alone. he's been good at reaching out to leaders. just met with king abdullah. we don't want to put bats on the ground. senator mccain made that very clear. we need to up our game. we need to up our game where the aid goes. too much of it is going to assad-controlled regions. that we have to make sure we're starting to do more with night goggles, armor, all kinds of things, and we have to keep these possibilities of senator mccain raised clearly on the front burner with the no-fly zone, with arming the rebels, but we cannot do this alone. it is an incredible scene what's happening in jordan. 2,500 refugees a day coming in. >> the interesting thing, mike murphy, as a political matter, this is something that will divide democrats. but republicans, too. and that's one of the things senator mccain has been speaking to. >> no, it's a complicated situation with a lot of difficult politics around it. i've been enjoying at least as an observe esh of washington the red line because the red line has turned into about a mile wide. it's a problem for a president when you draw a red line, the world is watching, including the
iranians. the political problem is the country has total fatigue for this kind of thing and there's a military problem. this is a lot easier to get into than get out of. what are the minimal things if they don't work? does it lead to escalation? the turks will be the key. you would need a big partner to really do it. there's no way to do it alone. >> let me get you on the record. what are you thinking about? >> first, the revolution of the rebellion has to be accepted by the people of syria. it becomes a lot less effective in the long term the more it's driven by the united states of america. however much we may or may not want to get into it. it's also clear that we have to be careful in accepting the intelligence that we're getting. we know from the past that we were a bit eager in other wars to get into, specifically iraq. so we have to make sure that once we're going to get involved in that kind of serious way that our intelligence is right and that we have evidence to back it up. >> but i'm concerned the window of opportunity is closing. the people of syria feel we have let them down. we are the world's champion of freedom. they are fighting for their freedom. tens of thousands of them are being killed and they're waiting
for our help. i think we have an obligation. no one is for boots on the ground. we have an obligation to lead the world and intervene in a smart way through arming the opposition that is not affiliated with al qaeda. al qaeda is only strengthening and the situation is getting worse by the day. the window is closing. >> well, either way and that is the concern but i can tell you there is regret about that red line comment because -- >> in the white house. >> in the white house in this respect. you don't draw it. they meant it. they do mean it on the chemical weapons but saying it creates this political conversation. they didn't want to go public last week that they had this early evidence yet. they weren't ready. and yet they knew congress was going to get this briefing and it was all going to get out, so they decide d to go public with it last week because they felt they had no choice, that it was all going to start leaking out. but they're not ready. there is no good answer. the gulf states and the big difference between here and libya, by the way, in libya you had the arab community, the arab league saying, we have to stop
th this. the arab league has been quiet on this and i think the united states would like to see that first. >> go ahead, senator. >> the other difference with libya is the no-fly zone. libya didn't have the capacity to hit back. assad does. so when we do this, if we do this, we have to deal with other countries and we have to get the support are from the region. >> we always work the political stuff here and so we find a solution we can believe in. is that a solution linked to reality on the ground? we know the dictator is a jerk. good guy rebels can be hard to find. >> congressman, i've been thinking what is the relationship between the syria problem and how much time and energy that could occupy in this white house? the president is focused on his legacy he's building in his second term and immigration and then, of course, there is the economy and whether there will ever be a budget deal. i look at those three areas and how they all come together. what is going to define this president's second term? it. >> well, there's no question, david, that it's a full schedule, both foreign issues
and domestic issues the president is dealing with. he just got into his second term, though. he's not quite leaving yet. and i think he's up for the task and congress is up for the task of dealing with these issues. i think you're going to see the president take some time to make sure the facts are right on syria when he makes a decision he'll act swiftly. i think the congress is going to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2013. i think they'll bring the gun vote back. if not in 2013 then after the republican primary before the general election in 2014 to put pressure on those folks to vote a different way. i think on all of these fronts, president obama will leave his mark on some very big issues in our nation. >> but, you know, karen, you saw this firsthand. president bush coming in in the second term and not succeeding on social security, the iraq war, you know, using so much of the capital and there goes immigration and all the rest. he's got -- the president has to coalesce around something that will define the second is term rather soon. >> the clock is ticking. president obama's presidency is defined by a health care law proving more difficult to
implement and more costly than projected and massive build ups of debt and federal spending. that is his legacy at this po t point. i do agree immigration reform has a good chance of passing. i thought he was shrewd to pick it up in the context of president bush's library opening and to say president bush had it right on the immigration issue. no day in the presidency is an easy day with only one set of decisions. you have a will the of big things happening across the world and big, troubling issues to deal with. >> chuck, you wrote this legacy issue in first read this week. >> it is. karen, i'm curious if you were to sit down with president obama, how long would you tell him that he has for a legislative agenda in a second term? >> probably a year. probably a year. >> you have one year and i think that's what they're operating on. and i think that the gun thing, you know, they always knew they were going to lose. they just didn't know they were going to lose so quickly. it does put more pressure on immigration to get it done. there would be this concern. everybody -- there was this basically it was "the new york times," right, "the new york times," maureen dowd and others who just said, oh, wow.
he's losing his ability to get things done. the gun vote was such a way to show how he doesn't know how to manage washington, this town. the gun vote was the wrong issue to pick on him on that. there is other evidence that he struggles managing washington, the gun vote was a different story. immigration is going to be the real test. >> senator, what is your counsel at this point? i know you were among the women from the senate who met with him. one of the complaints on capitol hill the president is not working even his people enough to get some of the things he wants in an agenda. >> well, now that he's put a minnesotan as chief of staff, mcdonough -- >> is there any other state today? >> i think that his outreach has been really good this year. people have genuinely liked meeting with him and believe that he wants to move forward on a debt deal to bring the debt down in a balanced way. i think that's got to be part of his legacy as well to try to bring people together on that. the immigration bill, it was an incredible week for the immigration bill. we started the week with people saying we have to delay this
because of boston and people like speaker boehner and ryan come out and say this means we have to speed this up because there's better security provisions in here. i think it's exciting. we had 23 witnesses on the judiciary committee and everyone from the migrant workers to grover norquist supporting it. >> i want to come back to the issue of president bush's legacy but the security threats facing president obama as well. i was in dallas covering the dedication of the bush presidential library and i had a chance to catch up with former bri british prime minister tony blair to talk about his thoughts on the middle east, the bush legacy, and some of the big foreign policy tests now facing president obama. you are in this pivot point politically of being so closely associated with president clinton politically, the new labor party, at a time he was refashioning the democratic party. and yet your legacy will forever also be intwined with president bush and his response to the war on terror. it's a very interesting place in
political history. >> there was a british prime minister when he was once asked what is the toughest thing about being prime minister he said events, dear boy, events. what happens is something comes of a game-changing nature or world-changing anywnature like and everything changes. i was very closely associated with president clinton and still have a good and strong relationship with him because we were both progressive politicians of a centrist persuasion. when president bush first came in, frankly, in basic political terms, i really didn't have a lot in common. after 9/11, though, i thought it was really important our two countries stood together and i thought it was important that we took on this new menace with strength. >> it was churchill who said during world war ii always stay close to the americans. and there was a moment in the bush presidency before the invasion, just weeks before at that now infamous meeting, and
i'm told president bush said to you at a very delicate time for you politically back home, called you tony, presumably, said, back out if you need to. don't do this. don't stand by me when you have to go back and address parliament if it's going to cost you your leadership. tell me about that moment. >> he did say that. he made it clear that he understood the huge political difficulties i had, and that i shouldn't, as it were, put my own premiership on the line. more important in a way, to him, i think, that i stayed. my attitude was, you know, there are lots of things in politics where you'll compromise and maybe back off exactly what you think you should do. these are often the run of the mill every day types of issues. when it comes to issues of war and peace and life and death, i think -- i came to the conclusion your proper obligation to your observe can country is to do what you think is right. i thought it was right to be with the u.s. at that moment in time and, you know, if i ended up losing my premier shship, th
was that. but i didn't want to stay on a basis i wasn't on this issue of this importance and at the sighsiveness to the world, i didn't want to stay. i wanted to do what i thought was right. i thought the world had changed after 9/11 and that we had to take these decisions together. >> in this library the president has decided not to separate out iraq. iraq is presented as part and parcel of the war on terrorism, which is how he saw it. but won't history judge that as a false impression that this was a war of choice that became a misa misadventure in the eyes of so many? >> i think in the controversy around that, around how you categorize it, will remain. what i thought was removing s saddam happened within a matter of weeks. you then spent the next eight, nine years in a different type of battle.
and that was a battle against precisely the forces that are trying to destabilize the middle east today. al qaeda on the one side, iran on the other side, and this toxic cocktail, if you like, of religion, politics, ethnicity, tribalism. so i never said the two things would lead in that direct sense, 9/11 and iraq, i think the difficulties we end up encountering in iraq were difficulties that arose from precisely this force of terror unleashed by religious extremism. and i think that's, frankly, what we still face today if you see what's happening in syria today. that entirely encapsulates it as it does across north africa, yemen, further afield, countries like pakistan and iran. >> it's striking as the president was opening his library today, there emerged reports out of syria that the assad regime may have used chemical weapons, a red line for this administration.
what lessons did did you learn, did president bush learn, that you hope president obama takes into can account? >> i think the lessons are really tough, you see, and very difficult. and i think the trouble is the lessons themselves are subject to great and heated debate. my view is that in the end the whole of the middle east and beyond is undergoing this period of huge transition where you have these dictatorial regimes whose time is up you. on the other hand, the battle for the future is between what i would call the modern minded types of people, the people who took to the streets first in egypt, who want what we want. but against them are various groups, islamist groups, that i'm afraid don't have the same concept, democracy or freedom that we do. and if any of them get hold of the potential to engage in mass destruction, we've got a huge problem on our hands. >> and look what we're dealing with in the united states, the boston bombings, the prospect of
home grown terror. >> as we found in the uk. >> britain has a lot of lessons to share about that. >> no, are of course. and the fact is this ideology is being pumped around websites, is being encourage d by people in many different parts of the world. and it's there and it's very hard for us to deal with. the first obligation of a government that's trying to protect its people, but then you've got to cast out this ideology. i think this is very similar to the fight we faced in the 20th century against fascism and commu communi communism. it's an ideology. it's not one command and control center. you're not talking about a country, but you are talking about an ideology based on a possession of religion which has an enormous force. if you don't deal with this issue, this long-term question, ideology based on the religion of islam, you are going to end up fighting this for a long time. >> you saw president bush up close as a man during very difficult times for any leader.
talk about your relationship, what it was like to sit there today and this moment of finality even for a former president at the dedication of his library. >> well, i thought it was a great advertisement for america today. you had five presidents including president obama, and all behaving with a sort of graciousness and civility towards each other i thought was fantastic. and president obama put his finger on it when he said it's impossible to know george bush and not like him. often people say to me back home, come on, you didn't like him really, did did you? i say, you can totally disagree with him but as a human being he is someone of immense character and genuine integrity. so, you know, you can say -- people have different views about decisions but there's very few people who don't like him and respect him as a person. >> prime minister, thank you very much. >> thank you. >> prime minister tony blair. when we come back, more on the bush legacy with our round table. how will history judge the 43rd
back to this picture which is a rare sight in dallas on wednesday and a wonderful celebration of the american presidency and bill clinton had this great line, mike, where he said this is part of the eternal effort to rewrite presidential history which is, you know, the great truth in all of these library openings. >> history is some what written
in pencil. they once asked, the great communist lead, what he thought of the revolution. too early to tell. i take that view in this stuff. there is a lot of smug kind of second-guessing, you know, revisionism, and we don't yet know yet. what i'll say about president bush, everything in the world changed in a day. the country was threatened a way it had never been before. you can find a million little mistakes but the big decisions were right. >> karen, if you can ever get over iraq it in the public's mind, how does he do it? >> history has a way of right sizing things. the short term politics tends to magnify controversy and minimize accomplishments. higher standards in our schools, millions of lives saved in africa. i would have added prescriptio drug coverage for senior citizens that both parties trade to get done. tax relief for every american that they're still feeling today and i think by the huge accomplishment which was recognizing as president obama praised his strength and resolve
in the aftermath of 9/11 recognizing the gravity of the threat and making the tough decisions to help our nation confront it. >> senator, how do you see it? >> well, i didn't agree with his decision to go into iraq. i think some of the fiscal decisions are clearly still haunting us today with the debt. but i will say working on this immigration bill back then i overlapped with president bush for two years, he put together that coalition that will succeed now and it was very, very important. he was the ahead of his time. secondly when that 35w bridge collapsed in minneapolis six blocks are from my house in the middle of a river in the middle of a summer day, he was there days later. made sure it got funded. we worked with him and that bridge got 0 built within a year and you don't forget that. >> chuck, the former chief of staff told me in an interview this week he took on republicans saying what the senator just said, those people who believe there was fiscal insanity during the bush years are wrong about that and republicans ought to to start supporting it because you see a fiscal austerity and
fiscal balance was not the priority after 9/11. >> it's funny in talking with some bush officials during the run up to the library, they were briefing us, that seems to be the issue that sort of got under the skin of some of you guys, karen. it's the issue of the fiscal on republican attack here. >> right. >> on this front and these presidential libraries. the first draft of obit wears, it must be weird being president and everyone is wondering what are you going to say in it's the same type of feeling. weird living eulogies. but you bring up the prescription drug, the obama administration is looking at the prescription drug rollout which, by the way, all the runup was, oh, my god, you can't handle this. this is going to be chaotic to model the health carrollout. >> enormously popular and coming in 35% under the projected cost. >> and before it was done, people it -- before you started doing it, are there was all this concern. do they know what they're doing? is this going to work? and seniors will be up in arms about it. so they're actually using the prescription drug -- >> the difference is we injected private sector competition and choice. >> no more.
i have two minutes left and i have to get to 2016 politics. yeah, right. barbara bush, the shot heard round the world about her son from the "today" show. watch. >> mrs. bush, would you like to see your son, jeb, run? >> he's by far the best qualified man but, no. i really don't. i think it's a great country. there are a lot of great families and it's not just four families or 0 whatever. there's other people out there that are very qualified, and we've had enough bushes. >> sounded like jesse jackson, stay out the bushes. karen, what did that mean? you don't have to protect jeb. >> i think the instinct of a mom to protect yet another son from the spears of the political process. i think that's exactly what it was. jeb bush has big shoulders and if he decides to run, he would be a great candidate.
>> that's what we call new england encouragement. i tell you this, i don't know what jeb will do. i work for him by disclosure. if he does decide to run, one day he will be president. >> when governor bush was running, she once predicted that he couldn't beat ann richards. we all know how that turned out. >> i think part of the challenge for jeb bush he would be formidable in the republican primary but there is a risk that the republican primary has moved beyond him, has moved so far to the right that he wouldn't be able to win that. >> he himself said that. but jeb bush said this in 2012, i thought i was a conservative, and look at what's going on here. >> also hillary clinton. >> that's right. she was channelling the whole -- and there is going to be a part of the country that says, wait a minute, what? don't we have new people? >> it's going to be hillary [ female announcer ] are you sensitive to dairy? then you'll lov lactose-free lactaid® it's 100% real milk that's easy to digest so you can fully enjoy the dairy you love. lactaid®. for 25 years, easy to digest. easy to love.
our friend, mike murphy, said hillary clinton versus new. he was not predicting newt gingrich was going to be the candidate. let me thank you very much for the discussion. before you go and we go, you can see my full press pass conversation this week when i sat down with four former advisers to president bush at the dedication of the bush presidential library in dallas. that's on our blog
oh my god. >> where is your clothes at? stay in the seat until i get your clothes. >> they go hand and glover. section for sale, and drug addiction. >> we arrest hundreds and hundreds of girls involved in prostitution. only a handful are not involved with a narcotic. >> all across america, more and more women are turning to drugs like crack and heroin to kill the pain that comes with being bought and sold. msnbc goes under cover with michigan's human trafficking task force for a sobering look at the overwhelming power of drug addiction in th